After picking up an easy 25-18, 25-14, and 25-15 win over Butler on Friday evening, Marquette had a chance to move up to the third seed in the Big East tournament on Saturday night based on a tiebreaker, as long as they beat Xavier in straight sets with a +18 or better point differential.
That didn't happen.
Marquette frittered away a 17-9 lead in the opening frame before ending up losing the set 32-30. The first set loss meant the Golden Eagles were locked into fourth place regardless of how the match ended up turning out, and oh, by the way, it didn't turn out well. Xavier took the win anyway, claiming a 3-1 victory on sets of 22-25, 25-19, and 19-25.
With the loss, Marquette is definitively the fourth place team in the Big East this season at 12-6. Villanova and Xavier tied for second place at 14-4, and since they'll play each other in the semifinals, it doesn't really matter who is actually the #2 seed. Creighton already clinched the #1 seed and finished the conference slate with a record of 17-1. The Bluejays are hosting the Big East tournament this year, likely because they're the only other program in the conference with a quality volleyball facility, and the MU-CU semifinal match will be on Friday, November 27, at 12:30pm on the Big East Digital Network.
Saturday's heartbreak was set up by Friday's destruction of the Bulldogs. Marquette hit .411 against Butler, while holding BU to just .119 on the night. Taylor Louis had 18 kills with just two errors on 39 swings to hit .410 on the night, and Joy Miley had eight kills while hitting and error free .421. The hitting star of the night was Jenna Rosenthal, though. Butler had no answer for the 6'5" redshirt freshman, who recorded 11 kills on 15 error free swings to hit .733 on the night. SEVEN THIRTY-THREE. IN VOLLEYBALL. Sheesh. She also had an ace, two digs, and three assisted blocks for 12.5 points on the night.
I'd love to tell you more about Saturday's game against the Musketeers. But after Marquette dropped the first set in monumentally devastating fashion, I turned off the Big East Digital Network broadcast. Not out of frustration, not out of anger, not out of disappointment. No, I turned it off because there was an eight year old girl SHRIEKING into a microphone on the broadcast after every Xavier point. If she was just in the building somewhere, it probably wouldn't have been that bad. However, the screams from this girl were on the same volume level as the BEDN announcers, and since the results of the match no longer mattered to Marquette's season, I decided to not subject myself to further auditory damage.
From looking at the box score, I'm guessing I didn't miss aesthetically pleasing volleyball, as both teams each committed 27 hitting errors in the match. Xavier "led" the match by hitting .206 on the night, which was reasonably better than the .147 that Marquette managed.
In terms of Marquette's NCAA hopes, losing to Xavier was not great. The Golden Eagles were sitting at #34 in the NCAA's most recent RPI calculation. Butler's down at #152, so beating them is essentially RPI neutral. Xavier, though, is sitting at #70, so that loss is going to cost Marquette some spots in the RPI. It gets really rough for MU past that, though: If (and that's a big if, since MU has lost six of the last eight against the Jays) MU were to upset Creighton (RPI: #20) in the Big East semifinals, that would mean meeting the winner of Xavier (uh oh) and Villanova (#44). We're at a point where another loss might end up costing Marquette their fifth straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
STAT WATCH: Taylor Louis ended up staying completely neutral on her kills average over the weekend, keeping her at 4.86/set. She's up to 540 total kills on the season, which is the third best total in school history. She's trailing Autumn Bailey's 2014 total by just 36 kills at this point. Jenna Rosenthal totaled four assisted blocks in Marquette's two matches, moving her to 114 on the season and the second best single season total in Marquette history. Rosenthal trails Peggy Gross' program record by just four blocks. Lauren Houg is up to 566 digs, the third best total in school history, trailing only the two seasons where Julie Jeziorowski surpassed 600. Marquette's going to need a DEEEEEP NCAA tournament run for Houg to have a chance at JJ's school record of 638 digs.